Space Weather Update: 10/16/2016
By Spaceweather.com, 10/16/2016
SOLAR WIND STORM UNDERWAY: A high speed stream of solar wind is blowing around Earth on Oct. 16th. So far the increased pressure of the solar wind has not sparked a geomagnetic storm, but this could change as Earth moves deeper into the stream. High-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras mixed with bright moonlight. Free: Aurora Alerts.
WHAT DO YOU GET WHEN YOU MIX AURORAS WITH MOONLIGHT? Some photographers say that bright moonlight is a real nuisance when you are trying to record faint auroras. Jim Schnortz of Grand Portage, MN, disagrees. In fact, he says, “it’s an awesome combination.” He photographed the mixture during a geomagnetic storm on Oct 13th:
Moonlight not only lit up the landscape, providing a beautiful foreground for the auroras overhead, but also produced a lovely moonbow (lunar rainbow) in the spray of the falls.
Schnortz’s photo settings are noted here. Write them down! Auroras and moonlight may be mixing again tonight as Earth enters a high-speed stream of solar wind. NOAA forecasters say there is a 30% chance of G1-class geomagnetic storms on Oct. 16th–the same type of storm underway in the photo above.
WEEKEND SUPERMOON: This weekend’s full Moon is a “supermoon”–as much as 14% closer and 30% brighter than other full Moons we have seen earlier this year. Chris Cook photographed the lunar orb rising over Cape Cod, Massachusetts:
The scientific term for the supermoon phenomenon is “perigee moon.” Full Moons vary in size because of the oval shape of the Moon’s orbit. The Moon follows an elliptical path around Earth with one side (“perigee”) about 50,000 km closer than the other (“apogee”). Full Moons that occur on the perigee side of the Moon’s orbit seem extra big and bright. That’s what is happening this weekend.
Contrary to popular belief, supermoons are not especially rare. In fact, according to NASA, 2016 ends with three supermoons in a row. Next month’s full Moon on Nov. 14th will be extra-super as the Moon becomes full only 2 hours away from perigee, making it not only the closest full Moon of 2016, but also the closest full Moon to date in the 21st century. Mark your calendar for that!
Cosmic Rays in the Atmosphere
Updated: Sept. 29 2016 // Next Flight: Oct. 1, 2016
Sept. 20, 2016: Readers, thank you for your patience while we continue to develop this new section of Spaceweather.com. We’ve been working to streamline our data reduction, allowing us to post results from balloon flights much more rapidly, and we have developed a new data product, shown here:
This plot displays radiation measurements not only in the stratosphere, but also at aviation altitudes. Dose rates are expessed as multiples of sea level. For instance, we see that boarding a plane that flies at 25,000 feet exposes passengers to dose rates ~10x higher than sea level. At 40,000 feet, the multiplier is closer to 50x. These measurements are made by our usual cosmic ray payload as it passes through aviation altitudes en route to the stratosphere over California.
What is this all about? Approximately once a week, Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus fly space weather balloons to the stratosphere over California. These balloons are equipped with radiation sensors that detect cosmic rays, a surprisingly “down to Earth” form of space weather. Cosmic rays can seed clouds, trigger lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes. Furthermore, there are studies ( #1, #2, #3, #4) linking cosmic rays with cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death in the general population. Our latest measurements show that cosmic rays are intensifying, with an increase of more than 12% since 2015:
Why are cosmic rays intensifying? The main reason is the sun. Solar storm clouds such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) sweep aside cosmic rays when they pass by Earth. During Solar Maximum, CMEs are abundant and cosmic rays are held at bay. Now, however, the solar cycle is swinging toward Solar Minimum, allowing cosmic rays to return. Another reason could be the weakening of Earth’s magnetic field, which helps protect us from deep-space radiation.
The radiation sensors onboard our helium balloons detect X-rays and gamma-rays in the energy range 10 keV to 20 MeV. These energies span the range of medical X-ray machines and airport security scanners.
The data points in the graph above correspond to the peak of the Reneger-Pfotzer maximum, which lies about 67,000 feet above central California. When cosmic rays crash into Earth’s atmosphere, they produce a spray of secondary particles that is most intense at the entrance to the stratosphere. Physicists Eric Reneger and Georg Pfotzer discovered the maximum using balloons in the 1930s and it is what we are measuring today.
All Sky Fireball Network
Every night, a network of NASA all-sky cameras scans the skies above the United States for meteoritic fireballs. Automated software maintained by NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office calculates their orbits, velocity, penetration depth in Earth’s atmosphere and many other characteristics. Daily results are presented here on Spaceweather.com.
On Oct. 16, 2016, the network reported 6 fireballs.
(2 sporadics, 1 epsilon Geminid, 1 Orionid, 1 Southern Taurid, 1 chi Taurid)
In this diagram of the inner solar system, all of the fireball orbits intersect at a single point–Earth. The orbits are color-coded by velocity, from slow (red) to fast (blue). [Larger image] [movies]
Near Earth Asteroids
Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) are space rocks larger than approximately 100m that can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU. None of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones all the time.
On October 16, 2016 there were 1736 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Recent & Upcoming Earth-asteroid encounters:Asteroid
Notes: LD means “Lunar Distance.” 1 LD = 384,401 km, the distance between Earth and the Moon. 1 LD also equals 0.00256 AU. MAG is the visual magnitude of the asteroid on the date of closest approach.
speed: 707.5 km/sec
density: 4.4 protons/cm3
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 1932 UTX-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B7 1725 UT Oct16
24-hr: B7 1135 UT Oct16
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1900 UTDaily Sun: 16 Oct 16All of these sunspots are quiet and stable. Solar flare activity remains very low. Credit: SDO/HMI
Sunspot number: 35
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 16 Oct 2016
Current Stretch: 0 days
2016 total: 21 days (8%)
2015 total: 0 days (0%)
2014 total: 1 day (<1%)
2013 total: 0 days (0%)
2012 total: 0 days (0%)
2011 total: 2 days (<1%)
2010 total: 51 days (14%)
2009 total: 260 days (71%)
Updated 16 Oct 2016
Current Auroral Oval:
Switch to: Europe, USA, New Zealand, Antarctica
Credit: NOAA/OvationPlanetary K-index
Now: Kp= 2 quiet
24-hr max: Kp= 3 quiet
explanation | more data
Interplanetary Mag. Field
Btotal: 5.5 nT
Bz: 3.3 nT south
more data: ACE, DSCOVR
Updated: Today at 1931 UTCoronal Holes: 16 Oct 16
Earth is entering a stream of solar wind flowing from the indicated coronal hole. Credit: NASA/SDO.Noctilucent Clouds NASA’s AIM spacecraft has suffered an anomaly, and a software patch is required to fix it. As a result, current noctilucent cloud images will not return until late September 2016.
Switch view: Europe, USA, Asia, PolarUpdated at: 08-06-2016 16:55:02
Updated at: 2016 Oct 15 2200 UTC
Probabilities for significant disturbances in Earth’s magnetic field are given for three activity levels: active, minor storm, severe stormUpdated at: 2016 Oct 15 2200 UTCMid-latitudes